Court rules EU rights of Britons in France were lost due to Brexit

One complainant had argued EU citizenship is an ‘ac­quired right’ that cannot be removed

The European court of justice concluded there is an “automatic consequence” of the UK’s “sovereign choice” to leave the EU

The European court of justice has ruled against Britons retaining any EU citizenship rights post-Brexit.

Responding to two cases challenging the effects of the Withdrawal Agreement (WA), it said that holding an EU member state nationality is an essential condition for acquiring and retaining EU citizenship. If someone no longer holds this, they lose the status and its rights.

This is, therefore, an “automatic consequence” of the UK’s “sovereign choice” to leave the EU, the court said.

EU citizenship is not an ‘ac­quired right’

In one case, still brought in the name of British campaigner Harry Shindler, who died at 101 in Italy this year, French lawyer Julien Fouchet argued about the impact of lost rights of Britons living in the EU, such as local and EU voting or the right to stand as a councillor. Several other complainants in his case were former councillors.

Read more: War veteran and Britons abroad campaigner Harry Shindler dies at 101

In a second case, British academic Joshua Silver argued that EU citizenship is an ‘ac­quired right’ that cannot be removed.

In both cases, the court denied that the complainants had any special individual justification for complaints about the WA.

Their cases were dismissed and they were ordered to pay both their own legal costs and those of the opposing party, the Council of the European Union.

Last hope is European Court of Human Rights

Mr Fouchet called the rulings especially unjust in view of the fact that many British residents in the EU were not able to vote in the Brexit referendum, nor the general election that elected the MPs who validated it.

“It’s definitive then, that Eur­ope is not fully democratic and EU citizenship can be removed without the right to vote and without the right to take action before the European judges.”

In protest, he said he will decline to vote in next year’s European elections, which he considers “undemocratic” if Britons remain excluded.

Having run several legal battles on Britons’ post-Brexit rights, he said his last hope is an appeal to the European Court of Human Rights for a Briton excluded from local election voting.

See here for more about his pro bono cases and ways to offer support.

Read more: Fight goes on, says lawyer as court rejects case on Britons’ EU rights

Britons waiting to re-register to vote in UK after 15 years

The rulings come as campaign group British in Europe (BiE) released results of a voting habits survey of 7,000 Britons abroad, which showed residents in France as the largest group that has lost UK voting rights under a former law that excluded them after 15 years overseas.

Britons are still waiting for practical measures to be put in place so they can register again.

Almost 60% of survey respondents had lost their vote, including 1,087 living in France.

British adults abroad will soon be able to re-register if they have ever been registered before or lived in the UK.

However, the survey revealed widespread concerns over how people will prove previous residency. BiE is urging the UK to be as flexible as it can on this.

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